Tuesday, April 14, 2015

8 Tips to Enjoying Having Two Under Two in the City

refurbished toddler's section, double deck bus
Photos thanks to Lesley Colvin, who saved me and my dead camera

With the advent of Gideon's second birthday the latter part of March (see his celebration pictures here at the Transport Museum, aka little boy heaven), I have now successfully navigated the wonders and perils of having two under two in a city--even enjoyed it.

I've learned a few things along the way which I thought I'd share here:

1. Coordinate naps and bedtime.  This is the most difficult and most important element of enjoying having two babies close in age.  I used my sister's sleeping tips to get Esther sleeping 12 hours through the night consistently by three months, with morning and afternoon naps coordinated for each baby till Esther was four months.  It meant that Esther had four naps during the day - two large ones, and two cat naps so that the long morning and afternoon naps overlapped. It was a huge help.  Now that Gideon has dropped his afternoon nap, I rearranged the day with my sister's help so that their afternoon nap is coordinated.  It allows the house (and me!) some quietude so I am energised for the rest of the day.

2. Simplify, simplify, simplify.  I look for ways to simplify life at every turn.  The party pictured here was incredibly simple - I made cupcakes, cut up carrots, and made Ritz cracker peanut butter sandwich (his English friends had *never* tasted peanut butter - it was so foreign, one little boy actually threw it all up - can you imagine?).  My friend, Lesley Colvin (follow her on Instagram - she's amazing!) helped me package up little vintage cars I got at Kempton as favours, and I used some of her balloons.  Done. There was no venue hire fee, and the kids had a ball.

Other things I do - to keep my hands free, Gideon now carries around the diaper bag in a little toddler-sized backpack ("kackkack" as he calls it) his cousin gave him.  I picked up a tip from a friend to put both of them in the same size diapers (Esther is the size of a 1 year old and G is skinny, so it works).  I do laundry only once a week, and the shopping gets done once a week.  I eat when the kids eat and drink when they drink (and they eat naked for breakfast and dinner to save on laundry).  If I am traveling within our neighbourhood, I don't always take the entire children's kit with me - they will survive the 5 minute ride home if they have a blowout, and it saves me minutes on either end.  Finally, I have identified the color palette that each of my babes looks best in (jewel and cool tones for Gideon, cool pastels for Esther) and only try to acquire clothes within that range.  That way, most everything matches, and I don't have to spend too much time thinking about whether clothes, hats, coats, shoes and (when she was little) swaddling blankets matching.

Gideon's "kackkack"

3. Get and receive as much help as possible.  We are lucky to have an au pair, which I think is an ingenious way to get cheap help.  They are part-time, and because they are learning English and you are providing room and board, they come at a fraction of the cost of a nanny and housecleaner and can be just as good.  You just have to hire the right one (I learned from a friend the right questions to ask - whether they grew up with little siblings - genius).  For those who cannot afford regular or irregular childcare, form a mother's co-op.  One of my dear friends and mentors told me of how friends who attended her congregation in Philadelphia banded together and would trade babysitting hours.  Everything was kept track of, and you could call in hours as you needed them and give them when you didn't.  Those who are lucky to live close to family can rely on them to watch children.  When #2 is born, accept help from a mother or in-law or sister for as long as they and you can afford/stand it.  I didn't do this, and wish that I had.  Part-time help during that first month just isn't enough, especially with a husband who works crazy hours.

I'll take help wherever I can get it!
4. Take care of yourself.  Related to #1 and #3, you must take care of yourself in order to take care of two little ones.  Before the baby arrives, figure out a hairstyle that can be done in under 5 minutes, and learn to get ready in 15.  This will often be all you have.  Immediately before #2 arrives, pamper yourself: hair done, mani/pedi, and permanent mascara and eyeliner.  This will do wonders for your self-image during that first month when post partum is likely to set in.  I luckily avoided postpartum depression, but still wished I had gotten the mascara and eyeliner done and gotten a better cut.

After the baby arrives, take the time you need to to heal.  Early healing is faster healing.  My midwives insisted I stay in bed for the first week, then not leave the house for the second, and then stay within the neighbourhood till the third week.  It was incredibly difficult, but my healing with Esther was months faster than my healing with Gideon.

My sister with the nine children is a strong proponent of napping for all breastfeeding mothers.  When I can get it, I love the midday nap.

5. Help your toddler become as independent and obedient as possible before #2 arrives.  I worked hard to get Gideon to a point where he could get in his sleep tent by himself at my verbal prompting (or to let me know when he was tired, which he often does: "Aseep!" he says), feed himself, put books and toys away, and sit through an hour of church quietly.  I also started disciplining him and teaching him to listen to me using the 1-2-3 method (why it works, I don't know!) from as soon as he could move with the thought that #2 might follow closely.  This of all the things I have done (other than sleep training) I have been so grateful for, as he is fairly obedient now and will often respond to my verbal cues even when I am immobile while breastfeeding.  It's a lifesaver - often, quite literally.

6. Spend quality time with each one.  My parents would take only one of us seven kids with them on a "together time" - often to run a simple errand like going to the bank.  But it always made me feel so special, and allowed me to develop relationships with each parent.  I am trying to do the same with our munchkins.  For instance, I signed up for a baby massage class with Esther and arrange for care with Gideon during her sessions.  I also try to focus on one at a time especially when I am putting them to sleep - that is our time for stories, one-on-one prayers, and as many giggles as they can stomach.

7. Invest in a good baby carrier.  Being a city mum means you have to be lean and agile to get around on public transport and in and out of tight London spaces.  You also walk a great deal.  Rather than get a double stroller (not allowed on buses and unmanageable on the Tube's many steps), I own an ergo baby (pictured above), which is, as the name implies, designed to be ergonomical, especially for a breastfeeding mum's still-mobile joints.  I determined I would carry her till she was six months, which is this week!, and I'm preparing to make the switch to a buggy board and scooter (more on this in another post).  Unfortunately, I grossly under-estimated the time it takes for children to ramp up on a scooter and should have purchased Gideon's scooter when he turned one.  He still can't ride it where many of his friends can.

8. Stop comparing yourself.  I am constantly comparing myself to my sister.  "If she could have six children eight and under, surely I can do two!" is my constant inner mantra.  While this is often motivating, it can also rather dampen my confidence.  Two under two is hard, especially when they are your first two.  You've never been a mother before, and you haven't ever had two babies before.  It is hard, especially without the ability to clip in and out of a baby carrier system or have the luxury and convenience of a strip mall, Target, or large backyard/garden.  City living is hard, especially with tiny kiddos.

So, now that I've shared what I've learned, how about you?  What advice would you give?

Friends at G's party

Gideon and his girlfriend, Kate

Vintage car favours from Kempton Antiques Market

Curly haired Gideon turned into baby Einstein.  Maybe more product next time.

Gideon was so happy to have his closest friends there!

1 comment:

  1. The kids are so cute! Our Ergos were lifesavers in Asia and we actually still use them with both girls who are now over 2 1/2. I dislike double strollers and often use only an Ergo and alternate the girls when in the city or hiking. Hope you and Lance are well.